The real Twenty Twelve

The Hampden Park flag blunder was just the latest in a long line of embarrassing administrative errors at major sporting events...

First our Olympic clock broke, then life imitated art once more when a bus carrying athletes got lost en route to Stratford. No wonder some people think BBC2 mockumentary Twenty Twelve had a mole in the real Olympic organising committee…

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Yesterday, in another twist worthy of Ian Fletcher and his Olympic Deliverance Committee (and on the first day of competition!) organisers displayed the South Korean flag alongside images of the North Korean women’s football team.

South and North Korea are still officially at war and the error delayed kick-off after the furious North Korean team refused to leave their dressing room. 

In an attempt to rescue the situation, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) swiftly released a statement which read: “Clearly that is a mistake.” We haven’t even had the opening ceremony and our Olympic organisers have already found themselves issuing an international apology! 

Of course, staging any sporting event on such a grand scale is inevitably going to lead some mistakes. Here are some of our favourites…

One of our hurdles is missing…

Organisers of the Manchester City Games in May left British golden girl Jessica Ennis “annoyed and disappointed” after they forgot to put out the last hurdle for the race. It took a tweet from heptathlete Kelly Sotherton, after the event, to alert organisers to the error. Watching the race on TV, Sotherton realised there were only nine hurdles on the track, instead of the regulation ten… Olympic gold medal hopeful Ennis thought she had won the race in a personal best of 12.75 seconds, until she discovered that the lack of a final hurdle rendered her time null and void. David Hart, communications director of race organisers Nova, said: “We managed to lay 220 metres of perfectly flat track out on Deansgate, and then didn’t put the last hurdle out for the race. So it’s not our proudest moment…” 

Not-so-jolly hockey sticks…

In another recent botch, Great Britain Hockey mistakenly played the apartheid-era anthem Die Stem prior at a women’s match between Great Britain and South Africa. The chief executive of the South African Hockey Association said, “We are extremely disappointed that an administrative blunder has been the source of much embarrassment for our team and all South Africans. The anthem played caused our team much discomfort as they stood not knowing what to do with themselves.” Fortunately for them, South Africa went on to beat the GB team 3-1.

Cultural learnings required…

Maria Dmitrienko of the Kazakhstan shooting team was left bemused in May 2012 after organisers at championships in Kuwait played Borat’s spoof national anthem instead of the real one. The song, which features lyrics about prostitutes and potassium, was played as Dmitrienko took to the podium to receive her gold medal. Sacha Baron Cohen’s controversial comedy, which portrayed Kasakhs in a very unflattering light, was actually banned in the country and although Dmitrienko good-naturedly saw the funny side, the rest of her team mates were less understanding.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrFSdeMqwi8

You anthem devils…

Yes, apparently getting national anthems mixed up is an easy mistake to make (take note, London!) In 2008, during the European Championship match between Germany and Austria, a Swiss TV channel ran subtitles over the German national song which included the long-obselete first verse “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”, popular during Nazi rule. The very same year, in a World Cup qualifying match between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, event organisers angered the Lebenese nation by playing the Syrian national anthem instead of the Lebanese one.

The final straw…

Did you know the BBC’s state-of-the-art glass studio, which now has pride of place in Stratford, was originally constructed for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa? At the time it was the source of much controversy, having cost a reported £1 million and been built overlooking the Cape Town stadium – despite the fact that most major matches, including the final, were played 1,000 miles away in Johannesburg. 

Better late than never?

Past Olympic games haven’t been spared their fair share of mistakes either… The 1960 Rome Olympics saw Suriname (the smallest sovereign state in northern South America) enter their very first athlete in the Games. The people of Suriname waited with great anticipation to watch their 800 metre hero Wim Esajas in action, but Wim did not appear. A scheduling error meant he’d been given the wrong start time. He arrived at the stadium only to find out the heats were already over, and had no choice but to return home without having competed. 

When doves fry…

At the 1988 Seoul Olympics opening ceremony, organisers released a flock of doves as a symbol of peace. With billions of viewers watching live on TV, the Olympic cauldron’s roaring flame was lit just as a number of the unfortunate birds flew over the top of it…

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Our good luck wishes to Danny Boyle ahead of tomorrow’s opening ceremony…